Ontology in diversity, or, What you see is what you get

The other day, and not for the first time, I heard the statement that science concerns itself with what “everyone can see, feel, touch and get the same results” from, and that this is why science was THE system having reality better than any other culture’s approach, because it was able to communicate truth in an unbiased way. But that is a misconception, and it refers to science, to justify the claim that science is quasi-synonymous with reality – and that’s a bias in and by itself.
Giuseppe ArcimboldoAll ontologies i.e. systems of knowledge, are cultural. Science, like all the other stories about what is true and real and knowable, is subject to interpretation, it is, on top of that, shaped by physical abilities and constraints of the observer (Six Blind And The Elephant...), and this affects especially every deduction produced from it by logic, math, theory, symbolic or language representation. This is why, and how, humans developed all those different ontologies and mythologies (incl. science) in the first place, and none of them has it any better per se; it is the cultural context that provides it with truthfulness and usefulness. If you want to fly to the moon science does a great job. If you want to live in harmony with all of creation try something like animism or Buddhism.

Where science claims exclusive access to, and representation of truth it becomes a totalitarian ideology, the religious doctrine of scientism which is holding that thought and symbolic/written representation of a scientist’s observations are more real than reality as such.

We need to be open to the fact that most of the things we thought were true, including scientific research results, have contributed to the unfortunate situation the living planet is currently trapped in, and that we need to rethink them and be open to other pathways.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo
So I am not railing against science here, I simply deny its claim for exclusive universal truth. All one has to do to falsify that claim is to immerse oneself a while in a non-materialistic culture, to understand where those people are coming from, or to practice Meditation, Contemplation, and Inquiry as proposed by Zen or mystic traditions like Sufism. I can assure you that the insights you get from there are the exact opposite of “making things up”.


Repeat until liberated

Seeing the necessity to stop the runaway train to extinction, how can we accomplish the shift from materialistic to holistic worldview? The question is relevant because not only are people physically entangled in the traplines of civilized life, it makes them also think that 'beauty' and 'sacred' and 'joy' were merely empty words which cannot afford them a living. But this is just a matter of perception. The task, from my understanding, is to provide opportunity for seeing things differently, by getting in touch with that more beautiful life. This goes beyond convincing others that “I am right”. First of all, it is also about proving to ourselves that we can actually stop the destruction within our own sphere of influence. Secondly, I think, the most convincing point in a debate is an argument which relates to an actual experience, so this experience has to be facilitated if it doesn’t already exist.
Thirdly, with only a minimum of contemplation and inquiry, it becomes unquestionably clear that at the basis of our many problems lies money; at the basis of money lies civilization; and at the basis of civilization lies the mindset of separation, of division and control and manipulation and selfishness. By liberating ourselves from the grip of that mindset, and by cutting ties with its manifestations in society, we can literally end the nightmare, one person at a time. This is by no means theoretical gibberish. It has been done millions of times over the millennia, it’s being done by people right now.

My practical advice is a one-and-a-half steps program which I and others like me have gone through. I wasn't conscious about it back then, but the urge to get out of the machine made me do what was necessary. It has been nicely explained by Keith Farnish in chapters 9 & 10 of his book "Underminers" which is freely available from the web. The advice runs something like this:

1. Reduce time on wage slavery by reducing the need for money,

a) by cutting the acquisition of goods and services we do not really need, eg arranging our housing and job such that we can reduce petrol or even sell the car, and 

b) by reducing the spending on things we might do or create ourselves, eg gathering a group of friends and neighbours who are looking after children rather than paying for day care; growing food instead of buying it; observing plants and animals instead of watching TV or cinema.

This has already the effect of bringing us closer to understanding the foundation of our existence, and of building an alternate social structure we may fall back upon when the machine collapses. It's the first step to reconnecting to the holistic worldview, it reduces our consumption (with all that this implies, eg. exploitation, pollution, sickness), it gives us more power over our lives, and it's a self-reinforcing feedback loop: The money we save can be translated into time we reduce on wage slavery. 

The following half step is using the time we saved on wage slavery, to better connect with people around us for further common projects, to help others who are in need, to ask the bigger questions in life (eg. what is important to me, and who is me anyway?) and to research how to do more things ourselves, like how to avoid or deal with health issues, how to repair the sink, how to accomplish tasks without using high tech, how to build simple structures, how to resolve conflict... None of this is rocket science. By applying the newly-gathered knowledge, we reduce the need for money even further.

Repeat until liberated.

To those who feel like jumping at me, replying, "All good and well, BUT...!" -- just continue with your life as before. What you want is change happening without your having to change your life. We need to accept that good things don't come ready-made, by pressing a button and ordering from a menu. Though a different feel to life will arise immediately, the process takes some time till we're out of the worst, and there will be challenges. Only if we possess the urge to make a leap will we gain confidence in our abilities; only then will it become a self-perpetuating, empowering process instead of a drag.

Most fellow travellers say that their lives have simplified amazingly; they mention a deep sense of liberation as a result; it is often coming along with a feeling of sacredness within all of creation, a joy of being alive. One begins to feel at home in a caring world rather than being driven by having to compete for the last crumbs. We can then say, "I feel fine, I am satisfied, I don't need anything." Hence we will become free to act without expecting anything in return. We can spend time on urgent or beautiful or helpful things although there might be no money in it. And we won't waste it any longer, on falling prey to battle cries, advertisement, xenophobia, blind belief in authorities, dreams of consumption, and delusions of grandeur.